We caught up with Aussie artist Anthony Lister back in Miami ahead of his show at Lazarides Rathbone, entitled Hurt People, Hurt People. Love or hate this loose cannon of creativity, he always has some interesting things to say about society at large. We chat about his arrest in Brisbane, freedom of visual speech and the World’s Longest Suicide Attempt.
VNA: So, Lister, tell me about your latest show at Laz…
Lister: Okay, so the latest show at Laz, titled ‘Hurt People, Hurt People’, is just me doing much of the same really. I’ve been painting pictures for a good decade now and I’m getting around to painting things I want to be hanging on my walls. So the pieces in the show, especially the bronzes, are pieces that I want to be making.
VNA: Your work has gone back to a more blocky style in the streets. Why the switch-up?
Lister: Well I guess it’s got something to do with the tools that I’m using. I’m using a lot of rollers these days so, naturally, the angles that I have to cut are less rounded and of a more organic nature than I do with spray cans. But I feel each piece is different and excavating the triumphs and trials of each comes with embracing chance and accident. And sometimes Cubist-esque aesthetics come into play and I appreciate them.
VNA: Obviously you ran into trouble back in Brisbane, what happened with that?
Lister: Oh, I didn’t know I was wanted for arrest by the police until I was stopped and breath-tested and went into jail for the night, came out and found a photographer waiting for me. So I guess that’s how people know about it. I mean, I guess one man’s mess is another man’s message but the message of society is what the police are trying to enforce. And it’s not necessarily the programme that I’m on.
VNA: How do you feel about the way they’ve reacted to this? I mean you’ve done work for councils but now your art work has been termed vandalism.
Lister: It’s just funny how full circle things come in life. The high school that I went to, that was trying to expel me not two weeks before graduating in 1997, actually have a photo of me in their office of past successful students now. I only know this because my children are about to start going to school there, went for their initiation and found that on the wall. And also the art teachers have called me to come do some sort of course there now that my children are going there. So it’s funny how things turn full circle, in the same way that Melbourne City Council bought signs back off Andy Mac after they’d been left in the street and artists had contributed to them. There’s this sense of irony, there’s this sense of humour but there’s this overriding sense of confusion. I just think the council’s slowing down and letting things grow a bit more than they clean them. It’ll be helpful for them; the graffiti task force, I think they’re a little bit aware of the fact their job may be in the extinction period. There’s not so much prevention going on as there is active consciousness of how this craft can be applied to actually benefit society. Having us here right now in Miami, having just painted a school for under-privileged children that are just ecstatic and seeing all sorts of anthropological studies coming out of those with statistics about the ability for them to learn more successfully, the ability for them to be more creative in their own environment, it’s fruitful. So let’s just say that things are looking up in Miami.
VNA: Do you think that’s an international switch in opinion or just site-specific?
Lister: Oh definitely it’s going to be, if not a landmark, just a notable productive, progressive step in the freedom of visual speech and the liberation of our craft in society worldwide. You know I’ve always said give me a school, give me a supermarket and give me a hospital for three months to draw all over and do the studies of before and after and you’re going to see dramatic changes in peoples’ emotional states. I think this will be a successful project.
VNA: And what’s next for you, what projects have you got lined up?
Lister: Well I’m always working on the world’s longest suicide, you know, going for that ticket, Guinness World. But also my new book’s just come out so I’m doing book launches all over.
VNA: Nice. Finally!
Lister: Yeah, it was meant to be in New York and now it’s here and I’m doing a launch in Sydney on 17th December with Monster Children who are supporting it. And then I take Chrissy [Christmas] off to skate with my kids and then back to it next year, I’ve got a show at New Image in L.A. And there’s some meetings with Mexico about going there for an extended period of time – almost three months – to work on massive bronze sculptures. I’ve been given a foundry that is just ready and willing for me to take a samurai sword to blocks of clay…and that’s what I’m talking about.
VNA: Book looks great, dude.
Lister: Yeah, right…(laughs) stoked man. They are available in London at my last show and then Gingko Press has I just saw the Gingko Press catalogue of works and where they do their distribution, which is just like everywhere. So I’m stoked that Roger Gastman and Carlo McCormick and Tristan Manco got on board for that, they’re the writers.
VNA: Yeah, that’s a pretty solid set!
Images courtesy Lazarides / Lister
You can check out more of Lister’s work online, or get in touch with Lazarides for more information.